A grieving Flintshire mum who suffered the heartbreak of losing her precious daughter through stillbirth has written a play about the devastating experience and how a children’s hospice helped her cope.

Philippa Davies, 47, from the Mold area was in pieces when little Samantha was ‘born asleep’, especially as she had already suffered a miscarriage, but counselling services at Ty Gobaith/Hope House Hospice has enabled her to pull through.

Philippa has called the heart-rending and thought-provoking play ‘Dancing in the Wings’ because of Sam being such a lively baby in the womb, like a little dancer, and also said: ‘I wanted to add a theatre reference to the title because when working in the theatre and someone is in the wings, you know they’re there, you just don’t see them, which is the way I feel about Sam now.’

The play is being produced and performed by Suitcase Theatre and directed by Christine Dukes. Performances start in Theatr Clwyd in February next year and the play will then go on to Ty Pawb in Wrexham, Galeri , Caernarfon and The Forum in Chester in March.

And Suitcase Theatre have launched a £3,000 crowdfunding campaign to fund touring costs.

Philippa says her aim is to raise awareness of the issues faced by thousands of families who lose babies and children and to raise money for Ty Gobaith, which has hospices in Morda, near Oswestry, and the Conwy Valley, and also national stillbirth and neonatal death charity SANDS.

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Philippa said: “Sam was diagnosed with Edward Syndrome, a life-shortening chromosomal disorder at our 20 week scan. Babies with this condition rarely reach full term, but I wanted her to choose the time she hung up her dancing shoes.

“I tried to make things special while she was still alive, despite her being in the womb, visiting special places, and making Christmas the best it could be. Sam was born asleep at 33 weeks of pregnancy in January, 2012.

“I don’t remember too much about what happened immediately after her birth, just that the following months were horrendous. I’d already suffered a previous miscarriage, and have endured a further three since Sam, resulting in me never achieving my greatest dream.”

Philippa was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and PTSD after Sam was stillborn and with her further miscarriages but was unable to get the support she needed.

She said: “I tried the NHS, my GP and even private counselling, but the support was very limited and with non-specialist counsellors who admitted they were out of their depth and didn’t know how to help me. It didn’t seem to be anyone’s specialist area, and I felt very alone.

“The issue is made worse because, when you already feel like a freak and a failure for not being able to keep your baby alive, and then a health care professional tells you they don’t know what to do with you either, it just confounds your own feelings of worthlessness.

“Following the loss of my baby after Sam, I was given a leaflet by a nurse about Ty Gobaith. This signposted me towards the hospice and I spoke to Jane Gibbons, their lead counsellor, and right from the start it was different. She understood in a way others hadn’t. I slowly began to feel like a human being again rather than a freak.

“I started with one to one counselling. I’d developed a phobia around babies. I was going to the supermarket in the middle of the night just to avoid parents with prams and families.

“After a few months, Jane took me to cafes and places where there were going to be mums and babies. We’d just sit and talk. I was able to reduce my fears and began to normalise things.

“I had counselling with Jane for three years and still keep in touch. I wouldn’t be as I am now, had I not had that counselling, and I’m now about to start a Phd in equine nutrition at the University of Aberdeen.

“It’s a journey thousands of parents have to live through. I want to improve people’s understanding of the horrendous journey taken by so many and hopefully enable them to get the support they need.

“But I also want to raise awareness of the need for increased support and training for healthcare professionals who have to support patients. I’ve seen nurses and doctors in tears because of what I was going through.

“I want them to receive training and support to help them cope but also to enable them to provide the best support possible for other patients.

“And I also want to support the charities who do incredible work such as Tŷ Gobaith and Hope House, who gave me the help I desperately needed and SANDS, who do amazing work and carry out fantastic research as well as implementing new management strategies and projects to support people who lose their babies. Both charities will benefit from every ticket sold.”

She added: “I’ve always enjoyed writing and I grew up doing drama and theatre and last year I stepped out on stage playing a nurse in the Suitcase Theatre Company’s production of A Wounded Peace. That gave me the confidence to start writing my play.”

Philippa says she was supported with the development of the play by Theatr Clwyd’s executive director Liam Evans-Ford.

She said: “Liam helped me with a team of actors who read through the play and helped me refine dialogue. I’ve also been helped by published Chester playwright Gail Young and North Wales actor Si Kneale who supported me from the start.

“We are also hoping to have some items we need for the set donated. Westbridge Furniture of Deeside has already donated a suite which will be auctioned after the final performance. We are now looking for cafe tables and chairs and other set furniture.”

Robert Derry, company manager with Suitcase Theatre Company said: “I see this play as a real chance to give back to the community and show support to an area that really needs it.”

Theatr Clwyd’s executive director Liam Evans-Ford said: “Philippa has written a very emotional play and I’m delighted we have been able to support her.”

Rhian Lewis, bereavement officer with SANDS, said: “Raising awareness of stillbirth is vitally important in breaking the silence and reducing the isolation bereaved parents feel in their grief.”

Tŷ Gobaith fundraiser Eluned Yaxley added says Philippa’s experience and the play she’s written can only help other bereaved parents come to terms with their loss.

She said: “Writing this play is testament to Philippa’s bravery. It’s a sad fact that every week, three local families face their biggest fear and their child dies. We cannot stop children dying but we can stop families and individuals suffering on their own.”

Visit the crowd-funding page at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/raising-awareness-of-baby-loss-through-theatre

For more about Ty Gobaith and Hope House Children’s Hospices visit www.hopehouse.org.uk

Dancing in the Wings performance dates:

  • Clwyd Theatr Cymru, February 27-29, 2020
  • Ty Pawb, Wrexham, March 6-7, 2020
  • Galeri Caernarfon, March 13 2020
  • The Forum, Chester, March 20-21, 2020